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May 1, 1999

A very long, tiring but satisfying May day.

Started off with maypole dancing on the banks of the Charles at dawn (5:30), then home and back to bed to rest up for a Sea Revels doubleheader. Scott Alarik had a very nice review of the show in the Boston Globe [no longer available--HJF].

Between the two performances, I went out with a bunch of other members of the cast and crew to the legendary Jacob Wirth's restaurant, which is just around the corner from the Majestic. Near the end of the meal, a woman came up to me and asked if I had been in the show she'd just seen. I guess I must just have that kind of a face, or something, because I was seated at a table with 10 other cast members, including 3 of the principals!

May 2, 1999

The final final Sea Revels show, a matinee, followed by strike and a cast party out in Watertown. There had been some concern about traffic and parking, due to the fact that the annual "Walk for Hunger" was going on at the same time. To be on the safe side, I cycled in, along Harriet's "Street With Seven Names, from Oak Square to Cambridge St., then in Brighton Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. I rode my fixed-gear Raleigh International, though only after starting out did I remember that I'd just switched to a 42/14 gear, rather than my usual 42/15. I did this since I mostly use this bike on my flat, short commute...but the Street-WSN does have a bit of climbing. The return trip along the river was quite pleasant, with a bit of tailwind.

May 8, 1999

Book: Foundation and Chaos, by Greg Bear

This is the second volume of an authorized sequel trilogy to Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation trilogy. The first of this new series was Foundation's Fear Gregory Benford, and the concluding volume Foundation's Triumph is being written by David Brin, and is scheduled for release later this year.

The Bear and Benford volumes are worthy successors to Asimov's originals. Since David Brin is one of my two favorite currently active SF writers, (Neal Stephenson is the other) I'm eagerly awaiting ../Triumph.

May 9, 1999

George and I went down to Fan Pier, where the Canadian schooner Empire Sandy was tied up, for a sea chantey event. This featured Barry Finn, who I appeared with in the recent Sea Revels, as well as Daisy Nell, another former Reveller. 'Twas a grand show, and I ran into lots of friends and acquaintances there.

I got a bit of an ego boost there, as a friend arrived talking on her cell phone to her son, a fellow Reveler. She said to her son "hey, guess who else is here" and held the phone up to me just as I was joining in the chorus of a lusty sea chantey...her son's guess was...Lou Killen! Blame it on the quality of cell phones...

[90 Elmar 1/500 f16,22]

May 11, 1999

Book: Confederate States of America by Howard Means

I'm a sucker for alternate history novels, and couldn't resist this "if the Confederates had won the Civil War" opus. It is a dark and gloomy book, and not particularly plausible. It begins with a flashback to Robert E. Lee considering whether to have Lincoln hanged, as he did the generals who led the unsuccessful defense of New York City. He shows "mercy" by allowing Lincoln to live, on the condition that he never leave Springfield Illinois again, on pain of having his family exterminated to the last grandchild. While I'm certainly no fan of Lee, who I consider a turncoat traitor, such savagery doesn't ring true to me.

Most of the book takes place in the year 2000. The Confederacy is one of the world's two superpowers (Europe-girdling Germany is the other) and has the world's highest standard of living. Slavery was abolished within 10 years of the war's end, and a rigorous "separate-but-equal" policy is in force. The House of Representatives is all black, elected by black voters, while the Senate is white. Similarly, the presidency is a white office, and the vice-presidency black. The two races are perceived as being equal in fact, and any citizen who can establish "77% racial purity" is equal to any other. "Miscegenation" is very strongly forbidden both by law and taboo, and is punishable by exile and shunning.

The conquered "Northeast Industrial Zone" is a polluted hellhole where all of the dirty work is done by an underclass consisting of outcasts exiled from the prosperous South (mainly for violations of "racial purity"), and would-be immigrants undergoing a lengthly and rigorous "Patriation" process in hopes of earning Confederate citizenship.

I would only recommend this book to fellow alternate-history fans, not to general readers.

May 14, 1999

Hit pay dirt with my Genealogical pages, I got an email from my long lost cousin Walter! Lost contact with him 10 years ago.

May 15, 1999

Banbury Cross Morris took part in the "Ginger Ale" in Harvard Square. George and I rode there on the fixed-gear tandem. I took a bunch of photos with the M3 and 90 Elmar.

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May 16, 1999

More Banbury Cross Morris, Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. took some video, George looked good. As we started for home, the car suddenly died on the Arborway. The transmission was blown...again! This time it was not an electronic problem but a mechanical one. The guy at the transmission shop said the planetary had probably blown. 1990 was not a good year for Dodge Caravans.

I had brought my Mead Ranger along to ride between the remote parking area and the performance are of the Arboretum. After AAA came and towed the van, I rode the Range home. This was a longer ride than I normally use this bike for, about 15 miles, and it's geared rather high. Nevertheless, it was quite a pleasant ride, though I had to walk a couple of the hills.

May 18, 1999

Book: Close to Critical, by Hal Clement

This is science fiction from the late '50s, re-issued by the New England Science Fiction Association. It imagines a hot, high-gravity planet where water and steam have nearly the same density, and the inhabitants of this planet. Hard sf at its hardest.

May 22, 1999

An informal Sea Revels reunion, aboard the schooner Adventure, the last of the Gloucester dory fishing vessels.

There was quite a good turnout, and lots of lusty singing.

May 23, 1999

Play: Richard III at Newton South High School

This is Tova's last high school production. She played Queen Margaret, with great energy and presence. Super job! Photos with Nikkor 105mm/f1.8, Fuji 1600

May 29, 1999

Play: Richard III at Newton North High School

Tova's high school swan song, ending with the traditional kissing of the stage. She was great again. The acting was generally quite good, though I didn't much care for the concept of the production, which was in modern dress (mainly to save costume expense) and featured some rather silly video stunts.

May 31, 1999

Finally managed to get onto the new Momon genealogical Website, found all sorts of goodies! The Harrises in my family were "Old Organization" Mormons in Linn county, Iowa in the mid 19th century, so they're well connected to the Mormon database. I found a Brooks line going back to Concord Mass in the 1600s, thence to Norfolk, England running back to around 1566. Even deeper is the Bacon line which actually leads back to a Roger Bacon of Of Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, England, born about 1172...and farther back than that...

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June 4, 1999

Book: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Hot off the press, his first new book since The Diamond Age. Unlike that book and the equally splendid Snow Crash (which I'm very grateful to my sister for turning me on to) this is not science fiction. The book tells two parallel and related stories, one during WW2, the other in the present/near future. As with Snow Crash, which in many ways prefigured the Web, computers and networks figure heavily. The action ranges from the Philippines to Bletchley Park to Sweden to Australia and a fictional kingdom in the South Pacific. Characters include Alvin Turing and General Douglas MacArthur. Very highly recommended, but not as highly as Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.

Stephenson is tied with David Brin as my favorite currently active science-fiction writer.

June 6, 1999

Book: Stars and Stripes Forever by Harry Harrison

I'm a sucker for alternate histories, and this one had an intriguing cover of a naval battle between the Virginia/Merrimack, several Monitors and a british steam frigate. The premise is that the British get involved in the U.S. Civil War. Through a navigational error, they wind up attacking the Confederacy as well as the Federal forces. North and South join together to give the Brits a good whupping by land and by sea. A lightweight, not very plausible but entertaining read. This is not in the same league as, for instance, Harry Turtledove.

June 9, 1999

Tova graduates from high school! The ceremony was in the B.C. hockey arena, and George played in the band. The actual ceremony was as boring as one would expect, but it was great to see her (from far, far away) passing this milestone.

June 11, 1999

Genealogical pay dirt! The Mormon church has recently made their extensive genealogical database accessible on the Web at One set of my great-great grandparents, George Harris and Hannah Brooks Harris were members of the Mormon "Old Organization" in Iowa in the 1850s. They have lots of ancestors for Hannah Brooks.

It turns out that the Brooks line has been traced back through Vermont, Elgin Ontario, to Harvard and Concord Massachusetts, and to a Henry Brooks (1591-1683)of Norwich, England. Henry came over early, because his son Joshua was born in Concord in 1636.

Joshua's grandson Nathan Brooks (b. 1712) of Concord married Susannah Bacon of Billerica, Massachusetts in 1737. The Bacon line also entered the U.S. in the 1600s, but the Mormon records trace them waaaaay back in Norfolk and Suffolk England to one Grimbaldus the Norman, born in Normandy, invaded and settled in Norfolk. The Mormons have a birth date of "abt 1075" listed, but it is more likely that he was born earlier than that and came across with William the Conqueror in 1066.

June 13, 1999

Film: Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace

I enjoyed this more than I'd expected I would. While I don't much care for the silly story or the hokey message, the special effects were worth the price of admission.

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June 19, 1999

Operetta: The Yeomen of the Guard, by Gilbert & Sullivan at the Publick Theatre.

An excellent production, directed by Bob Jolly. Very fine cast, excellent singers. The ensembles were particularly beautiful and affecting. This is the first time I've ever enjoyed the opening number "When Maiden Loves", partly due to the lively acting of **** and partly due to Jolly's imaginative staging. Jolly was a particularly poignant Jack Point.

Did a bit of camera repair today, for the first time in quite a while. One of the guys at the shop has a Pentax K1000 which had a non-functioning exposure counter. After a bit of un-necessary disassembly, I found that the problem was a bent back; I straightened it and managed to get everything together and working again.

Flushed with this success, I decided to tackle my Contax IIIA, which needed some adjustment to the rangefinder (it's accurate enough, but the images are not quite aligned vertically. Contaxes (Contaces?) were a particular specialty of mine when I was working as a camera repair technician, but I'm really rusty. I couldn't recall where the vertical adjustment was, and in the end wound up doing quite a bit more disassembly than I'd intended, even so far as removing the lens mount and rangefinder gears. Never did find the adjustment...not sure there is one. Bummer. While I had it apart, I also tried to fix the light meter, also without success. I think the selenium photocell is croaked.

I'm a bit appalled at how much I've forgotten about camera repair. There were many backtrackings as I re-assembled the camera. My eyes are definitely not what they were; had to use my reading glasses and my father's old magnifying hood. In addition, I really miss the delicate touch and dexterity I used to have in the tip of my right index finger. (I nearly severed it about 8 years ago when I was at Spoke 'n it caught between a chain and a has never been the same since.)

We got the word that Tova has been accepted to the dorm she wanted at Cornell.

June 25, 1999

Book: Moonseed, by Stephen Baxter (Harper Collins 1988)

"Hard" SF, with a heavy dose of geology, set in the near future. A mysterious form of matter that acts like a virus, dissolving rock into a silvery powder originates on the Moon. Some gets to Venus and causes it to explode, then traces escape from a Moon rock lab in Edinburgh, Scotland with disastrous results.

An emergency trip to the Moon on cobbled-together hardware leads to salvation through terraforming. The astronautical stuff is fairly convincing, but the book as a whole is pretty gloomy, with lots of characters killed off along the way.

June 26, 1999

A great yard sale find! A dusty old Omega D2 4X5 enlarger, with a 135 Componon lens and a cold-light head. I didn't try to haggle them down when they said I could have it for seven bucks! Unfortunately, the cold light head won't work for color, but I should be able to parlay my old De Jur Solar 4x5 enlarger and lower-end Componar lens into a condenser lamphouse for the much nicer Omega.

June 27, 1999

My sister Arlene visited from Evanston, along with her grandchildren Nicholas and Lucy, and Chelsea the pug dog. She's staying at her daughter's house in Charlestown. I went back to Charlestown with with her and my bike in her van, to help set up Chrissy's new PC...then I rode back home on my antique Mead Ranger...12 miles in blistering heat, but I took it easy and rode along the river most of the way. Although it was a summer weekend, the heat was so intense that it kept the pathways fairly clear of rollerskaters...

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
MoonseedStephen Baxter6/25/99
Foundation and ChaosGreg Bear5/8/99
Close to CriticalHal Clement5/18/99
Stars and Stripes ForeverHarry Harrison6/4/99
Confederate States of AmericaHoward Means5/11/99


The overall film list has been moved to a separate page.

Films reviewed on this page:
Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom MenaceJune 13, 1999


The overall music list has been moved to a separate page.

Music reviewed on this page:
June 19, 1999 The Publick TheatreGilbert & Sullivan The Yeomen of the Guard


November 29, 2002Lorraine BraccoThe Graduate
November 23, 2001Helen Mirren, Ian McKellnThe Dance of Death-August Strindberg
September 30, 2000Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell UniversityThe Maids-Jean Genet
May 30, 2000Kelsey Grammer/Colonial TheatreMacbeth
May 26, 2000The Huntington Theatre Co.King Hedley II
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
August 21, 1999Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sonata
August 13, 1999Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
May 22-29Newton South/North High SchoolsRichard III
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird


November 21-24, 2007Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2007Las Vegas, Nevada
August 18-25, 2007Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
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November 23, 2005Plantation, Florida
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August 26-28, 2005'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
July 21-24, 2005Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
April 29, 2005Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
February 16, 2005Indianapolis
November 24, 2004Plantation, Florida
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October 4, 2004Las Vegas, Nevada
June 8, 2004France, England
December 22, 2003Halifax, Nova Scotia
November 27, 2003Florida
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June 16-23, 2001Nags Head, North Carolina
October 5-14, 2000Evanston, Illinois
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October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois
August 19-28, 1999Ithaca, New York
August 12-13, 1999Ithaca, New York
July 23-25, 1999Bridgeton, Maine
November 25-28, 1998Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1988-89France, England
1980Yucatan, Mexico
1975England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey

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